A New Way to Network
I understand that we cannot be as outgoing as I am at times. When I was in pre-school, I was an apt networker. It was a father-and-child pumpkin carving day. My dad was looking forward to spending time with me. Unfortunately, my social gene kicked in, and my dad sat alone, carving the pumpkin while I worked the room. I moved from table to table, meeting my friend’s dads and admiring their pumpkins.
You can say that networking has always come naturally to me. I am generally curious and interested in other people's work. But it has taken me longer than you think to feel confident with my networking skills. Even I do not enjoy walking up to a random stranger and striking up small talk. At the last leadership conference I attended, I sat alone and did not chat with more than one person during the five session breaks. How I have learned to network does not look like shaking hands, kissing babies, and talking about my “value adds.”
Connections are King
Networking can have a bad reputation. You have seen the serial networker hovering by the bar, trying to connect with you so he can give you a sales pitch. I get it. You don’t want to be that guy. He makes you feel uncomfortable. But we all need to improve our networking, whether we enjoy it or not. We might imagine our resume or cover letter as the most powerful tool for our job search. Your resume is just one supplemental piece to your job search puzzle. It takes three things to make your resume stand out in a pile and receive a job offer.
If you have a pretty resume but do not have clear skills that qualify you for a role, you will not stand out from the twenty other resumes. But having both the skills and the resume are no match for having a connection in a company that would recommend you for the role. Sometimes you might not be as qualified as another candidate, but your connection encourages the employer to hire you anyway. Your network is an essential aspect of your job search.
I have recently seen multiple years of networking practice pay off. At the end of May, I learned that I needed to close my private practice for mental health counseling. While I continue my career consulting with clients, I quickly realized I needed to find a full-time job. The problem: I didn’t want to continue to do mental health counseling. A bummer considering my graduate degree is in clinical mental health counseling. The career I was most qualified for no longer looked like a long-term option. One of my three elements of job searching (qualified skills) was off the table for landing my resume on the top of a pile. I would have to focus on networking and finding excellent connections to transfer industries.
June 1 was not my first foray into networking. As a career coach at George Fox University, I started practicing and slowly growing my network. Four years later, networking was a natural practice for me, primarily via LinkedIn. If I had not begun networking four years ago, it would have taken me much longer to switch career paths. Networking is like planting a tree. The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is today.
I closed my private practice on June 1st. I accepted a new job offer on July 1. This new job is in a different industry from mental healthcare. It is a remote role within the tech industry. You will now hear me use new terms like UX, SaaS, L&D, and more. While it seems like this is a big switch, I am still using many transferable skills I learned from running my own counseling practice. But the only way that I switched industries as quickly as I did was through networking.
Here is one of the most powerful ways I networked
The one networking practice that I believe sped up my job search process is my podcast.
You do not have to start your own podcast to benefit from podcast networking. The principles are the same whether you are recording or not.
My podcast has increased my network because:
My podcast introduces me to more people.
I would not have met some of the fascinating folks I now know if I did not have a podcast to invite them to be guests on. It also helps me meet more people because I am looking for a particular person to be a guest on my podcast. Specifying who you want to talk to will help you find more people to talk to than just being open to anyone and everyone.
My podcast promotes other people.
The best way to network is to add value to other people’s lives. Every guest on my podcast gets to talk about the things that excite them. Hearing about what excited my guests allows me to connect them with like-minded individuals that would be able to help them along their journey. People typically reciprocate when you ask people to talk about what excites them. My podcast guests have been some of my biggest supporters, and I have thoroughly enjoyed continuing those relationships.
Your Next Steps
You may not want to start a podcast. But you can still benefit from podcast networking. Let’s just imagine that you are starting your own podcast where you interview guests.
What kind of guests do you want to interview on your “podcast”?
Find people who are interesting to you. Invite them to coffee for your “make-believe podcast interview.”
What is your target audience?
Who do you imagine benefiting from listening to your make-believe podcast? Clarifying a target audience is helpful in narrowing down your networking goals. Who do you want to reach?
Meeting new and exciting people, and adding value to listeners’ lives, is networking.
I would love to hear about your make-believe podcast and how it helps your networking. If you would like to share, email me at Daniel@learnedopportunity.com.
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